Two Ph.D. Students and Postdoc Recognized for “Phenomenal” Team Mentorship

April 13, 2023

L to R: Ze-Yi Han, Yaning Yuan, Dan Wieczynski

Ze-Yi Han (Ph.D. Student, Biology), Yaning Yuan (Ph.D. Student, Biology) and Dan Wieczynski (Postdoctoral Associate, Biology) are the joint winners of the 2023 Bass Connections Award for Outstanding Mentorship. This annual award recognizes the crucial leadership and mentorship roles that graduate students and postdocs play on Bass Connections teams. Each individual will receive a monetary prize.

Han, Yuan and Wieczynski are members of the Effects of Climate Change on Microbial Food Webs team. As subteam leaders, each individual brings unique skills and training that has helped the team utilize methods from ecology, evolutionary biology, cellular biology and math to better understand how climate change affects microbial communities. Nominations in support of this outstanding trio of mentors described their exceptional ability to work together to create an inclusive team environment, support and empower individual learners and foster robust interdisciplinary collaboration. 

The runner-up and finalists for this award included:

Han (second from left), Yuan (third from left) and Wieczynski (fourth from left) with team members (Photo: Courtesy of the Effects of Climate Change on Microbial Food Webs team)

Praise for Han, Yuan and Wieczynski

[T]hese three mentors worked seamlessly together to provide training, guidance, mentorship, community and a true Duke undergraduate experience for our undergraduate students. Their leadership has been truly inspiring to the undergrads and the PIs alike. These phenomenal mentors earned the trust of their students through a combination of individual mentorship and group-based, hands-on research experiences that they themselves designed. Their unwavering commitment to the success of their students and their learning experience through mentorship was vital to the success of the project. –Veronica Ciocanel, Jean-Philippe Gibert and Masayuki Onishi (Team Leaders)

Ze-Yi came up with the idea to have each member from each subteam shadow the other teams to understand how our project works as a whole. Thanks to her, we have been able to work together more effectively, share our knowledge and expertise, and make progress towards our experiment. –Luca Tjossem (Undergraduate Team Member)

Yaning’s expertise in the field of molecular biology is unmatched, and she was always willing to go the extra mile to ensure that we fully understood the experiments we were conducting … Yaning's guidance and mentorship have been instrumental in my development as a scientist. –Happy Yao (Undergraduate Team Member)

Dan’s natural aptitude for clearly communicating technical concepts and scientific theory has enabled me to understand key principles of research quickly, sparking in me an unbridled enthusiasm for my first research experience. –Matilde Molinari (Undergraduate Team Member)

Ze-Yi created an excellent learning environment, guiding us through her thought process for experimental questions, allowing us to mimic it, and helping us design our own experiments. ... [She] prioritizes understanding rather than simply going through the motions. –Enzo Bruscato (Undergraduate Team Member)

Dan's kind and supportive demeanor and deep background knowledge have made the research process engaging and rewarding. When I got frustrated with a model, Dan helped me brainstorm new approaches or ideas. …Through working with Dan, I have gained a better understanding of the kind of researcher and mentor I want to be in the future. –Nick Sortisio (Undergraduate Team Member)

Yaning is always ready to address the “why” behind any experimental step. …She encourages us not to blindly follow outlined steps and instead critically examine and understand them. For that reason, I feel that our lab work is a time that activates our brains and curiosity. –Anushka Goel (Undergraduate Team Member)

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